Wilson says defensive coaching approach must change #iufb

Structural changes are coming after Indiana’s latest defensive meltdown.

IU coach Kevin Wilson called the defensive approach in a season-opening 48-47 victory over Southern Illinois poor and unacceptable, and called on his coaches to address the breakdowns and tentative play on a foundational level.

“Structure and preparation by our staff is not close to what it needs to be and we’re trying to address that immediately,” Wilson said

Only two defensive players, end Nick Mangieri and bandit Zack Shaw, received winning grades for their play Saturday, but Wilson made it clear that this is not an issue with on-field personnel or player development. Rather, Wilson put the onus on a defensive coaching staff that is relying too much on a formulaic approach during the practice week.

Wilson admits he’s an offensive-oriented coach who doesn’t want to micromanage his defense, but he knows what he wants his defense to look like.

“Our players’ effort, our buy-in, is awesome on that side, legit,” Wilson said. “But there are some things that I think need to happen that I want to see from the way we’re doing business. … I just expect to see (coaches) putting our kids in positions to make some plays because their effort, their desire, their talent is plenty good enough for us to be much, much better than we were on defense (Saturday).”

That starts during the practice week.

Instead of working off a script in practice, Wilson wants players more prepared to play on the fly. Don’t go into practice with all the answers, Wilson said, because it breeds static, reactionary play.

In other words, he wants players to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable.

“We like to choreograph everything (and) I don’t think the game is choreographed,” Wilson said. “Defense is trained reaction. You have these battle plans. First play, wad it up and throw it away because the plan never works. You have to adjust. That’s what we did at halftime a little bit, adjust.”

Indiana’s third-quarter effort was fine on both sides of the ball after the Hoosiers outscored SIU 17-0 and outgained the Salukis 185-48 before watching linebacker Marcus Oliver force his second fumble of the day three plays into the fourth quarter.

But by the end of the game, SIU — which was picked to finish seventh in the 10-team Missouri Valley Conference — finished with 659 yards. That’s three yards shy of tying Michigan State’s Memorial Stadium opponent record set last October.

“We know we’re better than that,” Oliver said.

To prove it, Indiana already has a template for short-term improvement.

Arguably, IU played its worst defensive game of the 2014 season during a Week 2 trip to Bowling Green. The Hoosiers were left to play on their heels as they watched the Falcons rattle off 113 plays and gain 571 yards in an embarrassing 45-42 loss.

A week later, Indiana came out punching in a 31-27 win over eventual SEC East champion Missouri. On the first play of Mizzou’s first offensive series, defensive tackle Darius Latham barreled into the backfield to pull running back Marcus Murphy to the ground for a three-yard loss.

That’s the kind of approach Wilson wants to see in the span of a week. The rush generated by the front seven Saturday was essentially absent, save for a late sack by Mangieri. Linebacker Dawson Fletcher recorded the only other tackle for a loss and the Hoosiers finished without a single quarterback hurry.

Part of the blame there, Wilson says, falls on the scheme.

“Sometimes our rush gets going sideways and can get washed,” Wilson said. “I want to get it upfield in the quarterback’s face.”

Having a player of Latham’s caliber back on the field will help with that. Latham was held out of Saturday’s game for disciplinary issues. Indiana was also without starting free safety Chase Dutra, who is dealing with an undisclosed injury. Wilson said it’s nothing that will require surgery, but did not elaborate on specifics or a timetable for Dutra’s return.

“We’re going to see where he is,” Wilson said.

Dutra’s absence wasn’t the only blow to the IU secondary. Top corner Rashard Fant took a knee to the head and left the game in the second half. He’ll also be evaluated during the practice week.

And players won’t be the only ones evaluated.


  1. Isn’t it a little late to be saying that “the defensive coaching approach must change?” You make those changes is spring camp and reinforce them in summer camp. Wilson’s comments in this tory make him sound obtuse!

  2. It does seem late but he was also probably relying on the Defensive Staff to do what they were hired to do. It’s better that he deal with this now (doing it publicly is surprising) than wait until the end of the season. It’s his job on the line (whether it’s the Offense or the Defense or both that is or are a problem) and he obviously realizes it. I’d rather have him do this than say and do nothing while things collapse (which we IU fans have seen more than once over the years).

  3. Pretty much the same conversation after all these years, decades and unhappily ever after. No surprises. Just get better and better. IU will have a winning record this year with a win over Penn State or Michigan. Maybe both.

  4. Just watching some of the games this weekend, one thing really stands out. What the heck has happened to the University of Texas football? Watching Coach Strong’s press conference was painful. I think he was about ready to self impose the death penalty.

  5. Am I living in an alternative universe; I must be because posters and sports writers act as if losing the top 3 defensive had nothing to do with the defensive troubles IU had. I saw an inexperienced defense making correctable mistakes. One thing that has me concerned is how the D Front got caved down the LOS something we saw with regularity before Knorr came on board. That should get fixed wih The returning front players. The correctable mistakes – 1. attack your man and shed the block as you get to the ball carrier 2. Do a better job filling the running lanes so runners can’t leak through 3. develop a pass rush with the front five 4. eliminate coverage mistakes 5. finally Coach Knorr won’t be limited on the adjustment he can make during the game

    With a game under their belt and the missing players back, at least most of them, I bet the defense will play more like we saw this preseason. If they can’t turn it around then the way to win will be limited to develop a power running offense that controls the clock and uses play action passes to strike deep. The other way is to score early and often while the defense looks to get a stop now and then.

  6. Of course IU will look better this weekend. Returning players and also they play Florida International instead of South Florida who was originally scheduled.

  7. Indiana’s offense was very good, but even there some key areas need improving: 1) Nate needs to move his eyes around the field to look at his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th options, he stared down his primary receiver almost every throw; 2) get some backs in the pass routes and increase the number of receivers out on pass plays, often Nate rolled out and had only 2 receivers out in the area, 1 at 5 yards and 1 at 10 yards (pretty easy to cover), IU needed another long option; 3) our receivers need more speed, Jones is fine, or size, Cobbs is fine. Now on defense IU is terrible! Slow, slow to attack, not strong enough, no all out aggression, poor tackling, poor communication, poor schemes! How can the SIU tight end be totally uncovered twice, once in each half? I see nothing to indicate that Indiana can even be an average defense. But that has been the case for over 10 years now!

  8. vesuvius13,

    It is much more therapeutic for some folks to emote than think. The first game of the year is like the opening artillery shot. Once the shot goes off and lands somewhere near the target, the improvement between that and shot #2 is usually the greatest. It’s all about calibration. You can’t calibrate during practice.

    I do think there is some cause for long-term concern with our depth (always a problem) as well as the youth in our secondary. But I like the athleticism and there’s some real potential there.

    Again, we Indiana fans have PTSD. It just feels like the same ‘ole, same ‘ole. I was extremely bummed about our effort on Sat, but looking at it objectively, there are reasons to believe that it might be the anomaly this year.

  9. Here’s Double Down on a Scoop bathroom break calibrating his slightly off #2 shot…. or maybe he’s just fixing his WiFi.

  10. Depends on how you define near the target. In this case the # 2 landed in the pants or on the sofa not in the bathroom or not even on the fake grass.

  11. Don’t get me started….I’ll surely be chastised by Jeremy. …but I do have a song. while you calibrate the towers.

    Double Down and Dustin Dopirak…? Never a smarter pair of Double D’s..

  12. Wilson calling out the D coaching staff seems a lot different that the coddling of Mallory last season. Maybe. “Our players’ effort, our buy-in, is awesome on that side, legit,” Wilson said. Of course he doesn’t want to poison spirit of the players, so is he laying the blame at the feet of the D staff a bona fide warning shot or just something to say at a presser. I hope the former and not the latter.

  13. i have to second vesuvius’ strategy. outscore the opponent early and often until the clock runs out is an irrefutable way to twin. big ups to vesuvius!

  14. davis, I believe Wilson placed the blame where it belonged, at the feet of the defensive coaching staff. It’s their responsibility to recruit the right players and to prepare those players to play up to a certain level of performance. As Napoleon once said, “there are no bad soldiers, only bad officers.”

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